Jim Curran: Tribute to a Renaissance Man of Climbing

© Mick Ryan

Photo -Ian Smith
Jim Curran, who passed away on Tuesday 5th April following a long illness, was a genuine Renaissance man of climbing. His creative life saw him achieve excellence as a filmmaker, writer and artist, always connected to his love of climbing and the mountains. He first came to prominence in the climbing world when his film The Bat (based on the short story 'The Bat and the Wicked' by Robin Smith) was shown at one of the early Kendal Film Festivals. He went on to make many more films, including two on Everest, with many of the greats of British mountaineering, including Chris Bonington, Joe Tasker, Alan Rouse, Joe Brown and Pete Boardman. He also filmed in the Andes, Caucasus and Atlas Mountains and China and nearer home, on St Kilda and the Old Man of Hoy where he filmed Catherine Destivelle's solo of the sea stack for Rock Queen. 

As a writer he produced a variety of books including Trango, The Nameless Tower, K2 Triumph and Tragedy, Suspended Sentences and K2 The Story of the Savage Mountain, which won the non-fiction award at the Banff Mountain Book Festival in 1996. He also wrote the authorised biography of Chris Bonington, High Achiever The Life and Climbs of Chris Bonington. His final book, Here, There and Everywhere... The Autobiography of Jim Curran, included a section evaluating and illustrating his paintings. He was very involved with the Boardman Tasker Award and served as a judge for two years. He was shortlisted for the award no less than five times and although he never won he was presented with a well-deserved BT Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. He had taken up painting after his retirement from his work as a lecturer at Bristol Polytechnic when he rekindled his love of drawing and painting tackling a wide variety of subjects ranging from the Peak District to the Himalaya, taking in Scotland, Africa, India and Spain. A number  of these were painted on some particularly large canvases, including a series of the sandstone crags of Kent where he had begun his climbing career. 

Jim was so much more than his work though, he was a wit, a storyteller and was often at the centre of a lively social scene. His house in Sheffield was frequently the venue for post-pub parties and climbers from all over the world would appear and join in. His was a welcoming 'open house' for many and his pre-Christmas parties were always jam-packed and would last from lunch time to the early hours. Although never the most talented of climbers he was steady and a brilliant partner and was always an enthusiast for a climbing trip and enjoyed climbing with some of the best climbers and biggest characters Britain has produced such as Don Whillans, Chris Bonington, Joe Brown and Ian MacNaught-Davis.  When, in 1984, I proposed a trip to climb on the then virtually unknown (in climbing terms) island of Jersey, he was the first to sign up and we had a brilliant week putting up almost 30 new routes between us, interspersed with much laughter and fun. 

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6 Apr, 2016
Sad news
6 Apr, 2016
Very sad news. Thoughts with family & friends.
6 Apr, 2016
Aw no, that is really sad news. Thinking of his family and friends at this sad time.
6 Apr, 2016
That's very sad news Rob. He was a great writer. One of the old guard.
6 Apr, 2016
Oh dear, how very sad. He was a good friend.
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